Examining Cisco NEXUS Dashboard Using New Hands-On Labs
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Cisco NEXUS Dashboard has overcome the obstacles surrounding the modern application landscape by offering a correlated database that can pull telemetry from various Cisco products using a combination of API calls and a Kafka messaging bus. This correlated database can then be consumed by multiple day two operations apps such as Cisco NEXUS Dashboard Insights, Cisco NEXUS Dashboard NAE and Cisco NEXUS Dashboard Orchestrator (MSO).
By leveraging the correlated data and these powerful day 2 ops tools, we can proactively look for issues in the NEXUS Dashboard applications and resolve issues in real-time. Also, by integrating other third-party tools such as AppD, Splunk and ServiceNow, we can now import data and export data to third-party applications. Cisco NEXUS Dashboard allows us to go from a fragmented toolset, inconsistent toolset UI, reactive operations and high MTTR to a single toolset, proactive operations and a much lower MTTR.
I am pleased to announce two new labs to the WWT platform for day two operations: the NEXUS Dashboard and NEXUS Insights Lab and Network Assurance Engine (NAE) With ACI Simulator Lab. These labs were broken up from a more extensive day 2 ops lab into two smaller labs, so they can be completed in a few hours instead of a day.
I have been fortunate to have been working with the NEXUS BU for over two years, with the early iterations of the NEXUS Dashboard and many years with NAE and NEXUS Insights. Witnessing the tools coming together to use the ingested telemetry from a single correlated database allows us unprecedented views into your network's day-to-day operation and flow level detail from individual endpoints communicating.
Also, Cisco NEXUS Dashboard can be integrated into an EVPN fabric using DCNM. The DCNM integration can be just a way to gather and push telemetry from a non-DCNM managed MP-BGP EVPN VXLAN fabric or a DCNM managed VXLAN fabric. Finally, you can integrate standard NX-OS vPC architectures using DCNM as a telemetry gathering and streaming to the NEXUS Dashboard. The integration of VXLAN and vPC designs using DCNM to push telemetry does require a minimum of NEXUS 9300 EX, FX and GX switches that have the flow telemetry chips.
Cisco estimates 50 percent of their 9K sales are not using ACI, so there is a significant opportunity for non-ACI customers to use Cisco NEXUS Dashboard to monitor their networks and become proactive and lower their MTTR. Also, as more and more Cisco products and third-party applications become integrated even with standard NX-OS designs, you can leverage the correlated database to view real-time where users and applications have network issues, lowering OPEX and MTTR.
Before we get started with the lab overviews, let's discuss the Cisco NEXUS Dashboard and its future. It is essential to see that it becomes a centralized repository for correlated telemetry from various domains such as SD-WAN, SD-Access, containers, physical switching such as ACI, VXLAN and NX-OS, Intersight and the public cloud providers — and third-party integrations such as AppD, ServiceNow, Splunk and Terraform to ingest and export telemetry and events.
If we examine the diagram below, we can see the integrations very clearly. Today, NEXUS Insights and NAE are installed on the NEXUS Dashboard and consume data from the correlated database for faster MTTR and proactive monitoring. MSO also runs on NEXUS Dashboard and can push policy to the physical ACI and Cloud APIC fabrics, as well as SD-WAN, DNAC and ISE for an end-to-end policy. Future releases integrate telemetry from these various domains to provide end-to-end policy and end-to-end telemetry, making the entire path of consumer and provider of apps much easier to be proactive in monitoring and drastically reducing MTTR irrespective of where the application and user resides.
The first lab to discuss is the NEXUS Dashboard and NEXUS Insights on-demand lab. This lab is based on the virtual Nexus Dashboard and simulated data with errors created on a container to use the errors as use cases.
The lab first goes through exactly how to set up a physical NEXUS Dashboard, which helps customers go through a first-time design and setup. Next, the lab explores the NEXUS Dashboard, onboard sites, how the service catalog works, creating operation users and firmware management.
The next portion of the lab is the first-time setup of NEXUS Insights, setting up flow collection and third-party integrations (note that since we are using synthetic telemetry data, we cannot turn on these settings the lab shows how-to). The lab then presents a deep dive into how NEXUS Insights works and collects flow telemetry from the 9300 EX, FX and GX switches and advisories via the Intersight integration.
The following hands-on portion goes through various use cases such as troubleshooting, viewing advisories and anomalies in the fabric, viewing statistics and flow analytics, and integration with AppDynamics.
The second lab available is our Network Assurance Engine (NAE) With ACI Simulator on-demand lab. Since NAE runs on the NEXUS Dashboard as an application, we recommend completing the NEXUS Dashboard and NEXUS Insights Lab first to become familiar with NEXUS Dashboard. The NAE lab also uses simulated data with errors introduced for various use cases and an APIC vSIM that has errors, so you can see both simulated and real-time errors and use cases.
The first portion of the lab is a deep dive into the NEXUS Dashboard, sizing and design for those that decide to do NAE first before the ND/NI labs. The second portion is a deep dive into business benefits, how NAE works under the covers and use cases.
In the hands-on portion, we first set up the APIC vSim and use Postman to apply a tenant with configuration errors for troubleshooting. Next, we explore the NAE dashboard, create assurance groups using offline data with errors and onboard the APIC vSIM into an Assurance group. Finally, we have use cases such as change management control, troubleshooting and NAE for data center operations. Finally, we use NAE to do compliance analysis, migration pre-change verification and policy CAM monitoring.
I highly encourage customers with NEXUS 9K with EX, FX and GX switches to look into this new product, whether running in ACI mode or NX-OS VXLAN or vPC mode. See the power behind the ability to have a correlated database and the day 2 operations applications that can proactively monitor and provide faster MTTR of issues in your data center. Also, remember that the platform (in future releases) provides end-to-end policy and telemetry between users and applications irrespective of where they reside.